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Old 06-02-2010, 11:31 AM
Vince Jesse Vince Jesse is offline
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Cool The Decline of Manufacturing in USA

There are so many reasons why manufacturing has declined so much but money is at the root of all of them.

I think we all realize that increased efficiency and automated production were responsible for the first big job eliminations in the 70's and 80's. Weeding out the bloated parts of industries during those times was inevitable. And as digitally controlled machines got better things only accelerated. But then things get murky. Rising health care costs hurt. The rise of offshore manufacturing subsidized by currency manipulation or lack of environmental and workplace regulation is huge of course. Just the inevitable consolidation of an industry brings workloads up and wages down.

I have an example of a certain managerial mindset that has crept in. I know a guy who works for a large local company that makes scissors. He's an engineer and has been involved in designing molds and dies. In the nineties management there decided to start having these complicated and expensive tools made in China because it cost much less. After that, for years production struggled because the molds would be wrong and have to be sent back or re worked here. Or the molds would have a very short life because heat treatment was poor. Now after 15 years, for a variety of reasons the tools coming from China are better but when you look at the overall picture, the cost savings haven't been dramatic. In the meantime good paying careers have disappeared and an important knowledge base has been diminished.

There used to be a time when having a large R&D department was a source of pride for many companies. Now it's a liability.

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Followed up from this; The manufacturing industry in the United States is dying. If someone in the U.S. has an idea for any musical instrument related product I suggest that we keep all aspects of production right here in the USA. And have it made locally.

When I designed my "capos" it was about five years ago, before I had even looked at Mr. Anzellotti's. None of these designs are a novel concept, just a proven style of adjustable bracket found on all types of assemblies for hundreds or thousands of years. I was asked to come up with something to install on extensions with poorly functioning stops. It seems like mine ended up being a similar concept but easier and cheaper to make. If you have files, a few drills, taps and a drill press you could make them. Also, the standoff distance or bracket width is adjustable - simply disassemble the two brass parts, belt sand until you have the dimension that works then re polish.

I like the idea of an adjustable, easy to mount bracket. It just makes sense in many ways. With that said I think ebony fingers are much more comfortable and allow an individual, artistic touch. Kind of like decorating a bridge.

Arguing about who's capos are most attractive is pretty dumb. I'd say a more important question is do you want to be at the mercy of someone else's product or design? No, you don't.
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Old 06-02-2010, 07:08 PM
Arnold Schnitzer Arnold Schnitzer is offline
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Vince, that's an excellent treatise. I'd like to add this, having spent about ten years in the personnel business: Companies used to treasure their productive employees, and try to hold onto them. After all, the company had invested a good deal of time and money into training them and looked forward to a nice long-term payout. And companies could be seriously hurt by a key person defecting to the competition. But nowadays, with accountants (and lawyers) in charge, employees are seen only as a necessary evil; after all, it's expensive to pay a person, help with their benefits, and absorb payroll taxes. Many corporations will do nearly anything to avoid having a single employee they might be able to do without. And to shield companies from potential harm, most employees are given limited tasks to perform, so they don't know so much as to become indispensable. And there are few truly American companies left--globalization is more the norm than the exception now. The "new" business model seems to be: Come up with (or steal) a concept; pay an outside consultant to develop it; contract with a firm in Asia to produce it; pay a representative a commission to sell it; and farm out customer service to a boiler room in India. (Pardon my rant.)
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Old 06-03-2010, 05:45 AM
Eric Rene Roy Eric Rene Roy is offline
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I think there is more mfg in the USA than one realizes...you just have to look for it and be willing to pay a bit more for it. It is not like it used to be with whole towns being employed by one company like when my grandfather was growing up.

We are located in a small industrial park in the middle of the woods in CT...blink and you miss us. There are some pretty amazing companies hidden away in here with us...I don't think any of us employ more than 10 people.

We cherish our employees here...and we finally have a very small crew who all love what they do and do it well. I do depend on all of them...and the downside is when someone is out...it does create a "log jam" in "production". My varnish guy was out sick for a few days...and that created a problem. So...everyone in the building stopped what they were doing and helped out, and we were back on track in a day or two. Problem solved.

Funny...I was thinking about things the other day with products being made in China and how dependent China is on world consumption, and how a dip in the economy has caused many Chinese companies to close up. I have come to my own conclusion that the Chinese mfg model is essentially a giant Ponzi Scheme. The prices are too low to be sustainable for them and it requires a constant in flux of money and growing orders. The second the orders dip...the money is unbalanced and the companies fold. So as long as fresh money is constantly pouring in...no problems man. Ponzi Scheme. China is Bernie Madoff!
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:41 AM
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I agree with the above, and I also wonder how much of the problem, at least at this point in time, is that we Americans have in large part lost our appreciation for quality and the work/craftsmanship etc. that goes into it.

I'm sure it's a "chicken/egg" deal, but it seems to me like so often in our culture today, the majority of people really can't grasp the concept of how and why a quality product is not only worth the initial price, but beneficial to them and society in general. Kind of the "three value meals are better than one square" anti-elitist thinking.

I'll eat my steak today and be hungry tomorrow while I work for the next one, rather than float along on happy-meals, thanks!

I think the same concepts are pretty apparent in the world of instruments too, but I don't think it does much good to drag up the specifics of that since most here are already aware...
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Old 06-03-2010, 08:20 AM
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Exclamation well..

Years ago my Uncle had a costume Jewelry business but when talking to his son (my cousin) one day he explained had they lost it to the Asian imports. That was over 20 years ago.

Look at the Steel industry like Bethlehem Steel and Pittsburgh Steel, gone for the most part. Japan beat us out decades age.

The clothing industry is another. I rented for 10 years an old shirt factory that went under. Now I own the old pants factory, converted and renovated for my uses as my Electric Bass making shop. In my own business we are down 75% from where we were pre-911.

The Auto industry has lost more jobs in the last 30 years than we can count. The number of consumers are way up from 30 years ago but the percentage of the market is way down for USA makers. Even with them, how much of an American Car is actually made in USA? Not America, the Americas or North America, USA. Buying engines from Brazil like GM does or assembled in Canada is still jobs lost in USA.

About 20 years ago when getting ready to print some new Brochures my Art designer told me for large quantities I could get better prices by printing in Hong Kong. Soon after, the printing industry would yield to the internet and die down.

The envelopes we use for packaging our Strings were made by 'American Envelope', a company who we started business with around 1982. My Rep there was an older guy named Marty. About 15 years later, he would come to visit me at the shop in Pa. but the company had 2 or 3 mergers and changed their name twice by then. Now, nearly 30 years later, they have changed again a couple of times buying up other paper companies as each industry has shrunken all the way around and they need to do more to survive. My Rep is STILL that same now 28 years older, Marty. ONE Job saved out of millions.

About 30 years ago I heard about closures, consolidations and mergers with companies like IBM and other corporate giants.

In 1975 the commercial work in NYC for a bass player or established studio player was booming. The older guys were telling me how slow it was from 10 years earlier. I was so busy I had to turn work down to take a day or a week off and the people who would hire me got pissed I was away. In 1985 I had to make calls to look for work as it was dying.

The Airlines, Clothing, Instrument making, Cars, Steel, shoes, household items, etc.. almost all gone to imports.

Last week I had trouble with my email so I called my provider 40 miles away. The phone rang in the Philippines. A few months ago I had a question with my credit card which is from a fairly local bank a state away and the phone rang in India. Last year I had car trouble and warranty work on a leased Pontiac. I called to complain and when I asked what country are you in, they answered Argentina!

So Eric, young man, I salute you (and myself, EVERY day) for the effort you are making to make in USA. You are going up against China and Romania in making affordable double basses and succeeding. A very commendable effort.

I am afraid to call someone about a product or service and complain because I don't know what country that job might be farmed out to. How comfortable do you feel giving out your SS# to a girl in India?

Everybody I talk to from the owner of the Diner to the guy that does my HVAC work (heating and air conditioning) have sung their woes to me.

Big business from the Oil companies to the banks to the stocks to the war makers have taken over the world pushing the working man into a corner of the bottom of the barrel if not UNDER the barrel itself.

Life in the working world is not what it was 30 years ago and especially not what it was for the USA Manufacturing business. We have all slowly learned to live with less. When I rented my first apartment at 20 years old (1973) when I got my first Broadway show job my Father had to co-sign the lease as I was under 21. The rule there was that my rent had to equal no more than 1/4 (a week) of my monthly take home pay to show that I could afford the $190 a month rent. An older guy playing Cello in the Pit couldn't believe how high my rent was compared to his for such a small 1 bedroom apartment. There were rent controlled and rent stabilized leases back then as well.

One day I was at the movies with my younger son and he said "daddy, can I have some money for a candy and a soda?" so I gave in $5 and let him get it on his own. He came back with just the candy and I asked why no soda. He said "$5 wasn't enough!" .. Now he's in College, my eldest just graduated and I feel like I'm pushing a hundred years old working just to pay bills. It is not just Manuf. Jobs. It's life in general here in USA. Hey, when they added a nickle deposit on soda bottles in NYC some years ago the stores raised it 10 cents to the 5 it went up. They keep 3 of that 5 as well but saw the excuse to raise prices.

What good is promoting 'made in USA' when just recently GM announced a 27 million dollar loss for the year? Then we find out the outgoing CEO took 23 million or so of that and the other Execs, who knows? Maybe GM didn't loose a dime. It was the CEO and the other Execs that took whatever even though it wasn't there. Maybe if Greed and parachute contracts were not allowed they could have taken a normal HUMAN salary and helped to save their business, the Jobs they killed and the confidence in the American auto consumer. Now, GM is off the stock market and privately held. All of this was legal within the laws written and bent. If I have a bad month or a bad year, I take less because I have to. Congress wouldn't bail me out if I was hanging for life by a thread. Hey, they look down at the bottom of the barrel and can't see that far down so we working people and small business people are on the life rafts rowing with the palms of our hands..

Hey, at least I'm having a good year but it didn't come without personal sacrifice. Count the pennies, nickles and dimes. The dollars will come. Spend your money wisely and live within your means.

If you put your money in a long term CD at a bank and make 2% against 3% inflation and CPI, didn't you just loose 1% on your money? If you put money in stocks aren't you rolling the dice? I haven't seen the Stock market move much overall in over 30 years. In the late 80s we had 'Black Monday' where it plunged way way down. It went back up and then on 911 it went down again. Then the Bank and Auto failures made it plunge again and now its back up. Back up to where it was but not UP up if you know what I mean. The ceiling in 30 years (please correct me if I am wrong here) has been about 10,000-12,000 max on the Dow, right?

Well, old Juzek Basses and Kay Basses have soared in price in these 30 years, right? The other handmade carved basses are pushed up in price from the bottom it seems and sometimes from the top with a big sale of a famous Italian or even an English bass.

So, what are you waiting for? Call me, Buy a Bass already. It's proven to be a better investment over time than the stock market in the last 30 years. I say, enjoy your money before the Banks or someone else does!

Provide for your family and try to Live in a way where YOU are in control of your money. Think about it. Live and enjoy life. No one else will do it for you..

CNN goes to commercial as my National Address ends...
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:27 PM
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....The ceiling in 30 years (please correct me if I am wrong here) has been about 10,000-12,000 max on the Dow, right?
Actually, the DOW high was at 14k before the spiral downward.
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Old 06-03-2010, 04:42 PM
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Question 14k?

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Actually, the DOW high was at 14k before the spiral downward.
Ok, BUT, which period in time are we talking, 1987, 2001 or 2008?
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:38 PM
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Ok, BUT, which period in time are we talking, 1987, 2001 or 2008?
14k: Timeframe: 2008. That's the highest the DOW had reached in its history.
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Old 06-04-2010, 12:54 AM
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Quote:
In my own business we are down 75% from where we were pre-91


Ken, do you attribute this entirely to the state of the economy (and our state of mind - prioritizing other purchases, investments, etc.)? Or are there other factors within the industry that are also significant?

I've always thought of Smith as sort of the "industry standard" of professional bass guitars, and would have assumed that with "boutique" instruments and all that getting big in recent years that such a solid name and reputation would be right at the top of the industry; I guess there are a lot more people buying flashy "happy meal" instruments than the real deal...

Quote:
So, what are you waiting for? Call me, Buy a Bass already. It's proven to be a better investment over time than the stock market in the last 30 years. I say, enjoy your money before the Banks or someone else does!
Indeed. Who's loaning big money on old double basses these days, anyway... Forget buying a house...
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Old 06-04-2010, 05:15 AM
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Cool well..

First let me make a correction or rather, a clarification. When I said down 75%, I meant in volume of basses being made. The actual difference in dollars is more like 35%, not 75%.

We had a growth spurt in the late 1990s making supplying our lower cost basses to stores as 'door openers' or in the case with a chain like Sam Ash, it was the main model of ours that they carried.

We were in the process of competing with ourselves making a bass just above the Burner Basses we had made in part in Japan. We were also cutting and supplying quite a bit of wood FOR Japan to make the Burners as well. All of the Morado Fingerboard blanks were supplied by us and all of the maple and walnut body woods were directly supplied from our shop after 1998 for the BSR B models. When we stopped making the Burners, we used all of the left over body pairs for our own M and J models. We still have tons of Walnut lumber in stock to make these and a few maple blanks in the shelf that we cut over 10 years ago. We just hardly ever have a call for it these days.

As the economy changed drastically after 9/11, I decided to concentrate on making our better or rather higher end models. My staff has slowly declined as some workers moved on in life and were NOT replaced as I would have done in a 'booming' period of manufacturing. It worked out just fine in the balance as the demand for product lessened and my building staff slowly shrunk.

As it turns out, making lower end product was not at all profitable. In fact, the year we made the most of them we actually lost money doing so. The loss was off set by the more expensive basses and our string and polish business. The loss 'ate' 2/3rds of our gross profit that year. Being able to make less basses and cutting out just about all of the low end production was actually a profitable move that sort of happened and adjusted itself in a way. A situation of luck actually. In late 2008 I noticed the business slipping once again overall with the recession coming in like a storm. Within a month I laid off a couple of workers to adjust and made some other personal cuts to stay afloat.

I have to say that the last two years although down about a 1/3rd in gross sales, the adjustments I made allowed for us to survive and stay profitable. Now, I am trying to increase production slightly in the coming months as we have sold out most of the stock that accumulated during the past two years. Most of the stock we have now are recently made basses produced to replace the older stock we sold thru but there was a period when we made more than we sold. Now that is in reverse so we have to adjust and balance that out to avoid a longer back-order situation in the coming year.

It's kind of challenging to move things up and down to meet the demand but seeing the business survive on less and be profitable at the same time makes my life a lot easier. We just can't go back and make 75% of our basses from the lower end of our product line to please dealers so they can say the sell Smith basses. In face, it didn't represent us very well at all. People got the wrong impression thinking that was THE Smith Bass when in fact it was just the appetizer, not the main course.

On the stock market figures that Tim corrected me on, let me say a few things. First off, we are talking about maybe a 15% difference at most and the 14k figure was a bit wobbly or rather wishful as far as strength in the market at that time. I remember hearing Greenspan in the news saying that the Market is facing a self re-adjustment or something like that because there was little to support the growth it was having. Either way, when the market goes down, it takes most everyone with it. Mutual funds depending on the mix involved go down with it more or less.

I was taught once that it's best to do what you know. Stocks I do NOT know and don't have the time to learn or watch or gamble. Basses, wood and my business I do know so I would rather do what I know than gamble blind with stocks and have somewhat a bit of control in what I invest in.

The other think that has helped us to survive is in the wood business. I bought so much wood in the late 1990's up until a few years ago that almost every piece in every bass is 'old money'. That means we are turning dead stock into cash. In the bill of materials, most everything is recent spending as far as the parts and hardware goes and the labor is mostly brand new. Using wood that was paid for years ago brings cash back in for wood we had sitting in stock. This holds true for over 95% of the woods used in every bass. Also, selling off bass stock that was made prior or as fill ins to make up a small run when filling orders has helped a great deal in cash flow and production time.

It's a balancing act being a manufacturer. Run length equalization and economic run length are terms I learned many years ago for production that help me in being efficient. We are all 'hand-made' here but we do make up the body and neck blanks in groups to save time per unit rather than to fly one passenger per jumbo jet! That's just a huge waste. When things are tight, there is no fat to burn, business wise I mean.
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Old 06-04-2010, 08:04 AM
Arnold Schnitzer Arnold Schnitzer is offline
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I would just like to point out a terrific company bucking the trend: Lie-Nielsen Tools of Maine, USA. My shop practically runs on their excellent hand tools--planes, chisels, and specialty tools. They do everything in-house, including casting and machining. Their products are expensive (like Smith electric basses or my double basses), but heirloom-quality and worth every penny. Woodworkers the world over cherish and collect their products. Have a look:http://lie-nielsen.com
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Old 06-04-2010, 04:01 PM
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+1

Lie Nielsen stuff is great; I hope one of these days they expand their lineup to include small planes, and gouges to match the chisels.
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Old 06-15-2010, 08:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold Schnitzer View Post
I would just like to point out a terrific company bucking the trend: Lie-Nielsen Tools of Maine, USA. My shop practically runs on their excellent hand tools--planes, chisels, and specialty tools. They do everything in-house, including casting and machining. Their products are expensive (like Smith electric basses or my double basses), but heirloom-quality and worth every penny. Woodworkers the world over cherish and collect their products. Have a look:http://lie-nielsen.com

+1. Although I use them less than I used to, I still appreciate the significance of my Lie Nielsen tools.

Interestingly, their large rebate plane (copy of the Record #73) is such a close match to the original, that the parts are interchangeable; I have a L-N handle mounted on my old Record plane (the old casting got cracked). I also especially love my small, low-angle L-N block plane.

From an old-timer I apprenticed with, I received several of the original old Stanley tool catalogs. Several of the L-N plane line are reissues, with improvements, of the discontinued Stanley or Record lines. While I still treasure my old Stanley Bedrock planes, the L-N stuff is very sweet....

Hock plane irons are also nice, and a good complement for the L-N stuff.

Well-made manufactured items represent a series of decisions. For me, as a professional craftsperson, it works best only to buy only things that represent manufacturing decisions that also express my beliefs, as a "maker."
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Old 06-25-2010, 06:37 PM
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Anybody bought LN plane irons lately? I'm wondering how well they're finishing them these days. The last one I got was flat and had no issues, so it worked fine, but was pretty roughly ground so it took a bit of work to get it to a nice polish. Granted, I'm a perfectionist and like to have a great finish on my blades.
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:54 PM
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Default manufacturing cycle

Hi there,

This video has a lot of good points regarding the manufacturing cycle.

http://www.storyofstuff.org/

Click on "stuff" movie box and watch the full video. There are some excellent points about the externalizing of costs, and about this whole production system.

It should stimulate this discussion.
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Old 07-13-2010, 02:34 PM
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Thumbs up Excellent!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Srikanth Narayanan View Post
Hi there,

This video has a lot of good points regarding the manufacturing cycle.

http://www.storyofstuff.org/

Click on "stuff" movie box and watch the full video. There are some excellent points about the externalizing of costs, and about this whole production system.

It should stimulate this discussion.
Excellent clip and very well done.
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:13 AM
Arnold Schnitzer Arnold Schnitzer is offline
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I was listening to news radio this morning, and they did a story about the new Willis Avenue bridge being brought into place. That bridge crosses the Harlem River and joins the Bronx and Manhattan. It was fabricated up the Hudson near Albany, of American steel, and floated down on a barge. It got me thinking about all the good things that are made in the USA, and I was able to come up with a pretty impressive mental list. Hopefully, other posters will join in.

#1 Airplanes
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:39 AM
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Question Airplanes?

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I was listening to news radio this morning, and they did a story about the new Willis Avenue bridge being brought into place. That bridge crosses the Harlem River and joins the Bronx and Manhattan. It was fabricated up the Hudson near Albany, of American steel, and floated down on a barge. It got me thinking about all the good things that are made in the USA, and I was able to come up with a pretty impressive mental list. Hopefully, other posters will join in.

#1 Airplanes
Hey, if Airplanes are made in USA then why are the seats so tiny?
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:08 AM
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Talking Lol!

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Hey, if Airplanes are made in USA then why are the seats so tiny?
Maybe the seats were made and imported from China?
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:12 AM
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Thumbs up Made in USA....

Continued......

#2. Ken Smith Basses.
#3. Guns and ammo.
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